Is Lockdown a Viable Option to Control the Coronavirus in Africa?

The African nations have had plenty of recent infectious disease outbreaks such as HIV and Ebola to learn ways of tackling an epidemic. Therefore, they might be better equipped in mental fortitude to handle the current coronavirus crisis. One significant factor that the African people are aware of is that the communities must be actively involved in responding to the virus outbreak.

Some nuggets of truth already learnt from previous experience with infectious diseases is that the outbreaks can be released differently in different communities and environments. This is in part due to the social conditions of the people concerned. The second important understanding is that the control measures implemented need to be applied with the consent and full agreement of the people concerned.  helped end Ebola in West Africa in 2015

From their recent hands-on experience, epidemic control measures will only be embraced and adhered if the local people are actively involved in determining the future destiny of their own lives. This implies that even though Covid-19 is a pandemic that is spreading across almost the entire globe, it can also be considered as a series of localized epidemics that are popping up simultaneously across the globe.

The methods of transmission are the same across the globe but the speed of transmission may vary as well as the overall pattern of spread. These variations can be observed and the differences observed between densely populated lower-income township areas compared with less-dense, mid-level suburban neighbourhoods. Likewise, the spread of infection will be markedly different in refugee and displaced persons camps. The spread will be different again amidst nomadic people.

The social behaviour of the African people are of great importance in their cultural settings. These behaviours include greetings, mixing and mingling across generations as a normal daily practice, as well as the variation in physical distancing and hand washing procedures.

The international recommendations for dealing with the transmission of infectious diseases is largely determined by westernized, middle and upper class people groups centralized in urban dwellings with ample natural resources such as fresh, clean water within their living abodes, personal means of transportation, indoor living and working environments, and so forth.

African nations tackle the spread of disease in their communities in very different ways because the aforementioned socio-economic and spatial factors. There are also very significant differences in the general health conditions of the people, and the type of medical concerns that are more prevalent in the African people.

The immunity of the people on the African continent is much weaker due to the history and prevalence of HIV condition. The fear of infection is more acute because also because many millions of people are with tuberculosis. There is also a high occurrence of malaria and severe malnutrition. Thus, it is reasonable to say that the people on the African continent are likely to be very vulnerable due to their decreased levels of immunity, and their various medical conditions which are life threatening.

In contrast to these negative factors, there is one very encouraging positive factor and that is the populations across the continent are extremely young. The are countries where up to fifty percent of the population are under the age of 30 years. There is a very small percentage of the population, less than 2%, who are over 65 years. This is a good indicator that the mortality rate could be much lower across the African continent when the coronavirus strikes in this part of the globe.

The infectious disease prediction rates and data models have been developed for the more developed westernized regions of the globe. The main epidemic control measure adopted by China, Europe and North America has been the lockdown concept enforcing self-isolation which is in itself a very long-standing traditional approach to managing infectious diseases. There is neither adequate data nor time available for enhancing the models and predictors for the African continent.

The lockdown approach also required some rigorous medical, emergency response and policing systems to already be in existence in the nations (or counties /states) within the region. The lockdown approach also required a centralized operations base which is not possible in many African nations. Nations such as South Africa and Rwanda could operate lockdowns but there would still be areas within these countries where it is not a feasible approach.

There are a number of reasons why lockdown is not a viable option to tackle Covid-19 pandemic in Africa. Many of the people are subsistence farmers so need to work in the fields. The little cash flow comes from regular sales of produce in the local market so a longterm lockdown might control the virus but will lead the people to poverty and potential starvation. The various regions are already subjected to long term droughts, swarms of locusts, and occasional flash floods, as well as long term unemployment due to very limited work opportunities. During these events, individuals and even communities are dependent on extended family members for support. This is their social security system. Therefore, a lockdown would disengage family connections and make the people more vulnerable and destitute.

Many nations are already very dependent on international aid for normal everyday living. With the present pandemic conditions, the financial aid options are threatened and will be severely reduced. Likewise, supply chain systems were also be severely threatened and reduced. The level of medical and health support across the globe is also very weak and vulnerable in comparison with those developed nations which are themselves struggling to maintain adequate medical supplies and equipment.

As significant regions of the African continent have experienced recent epidemics, there is large resources of local knowledge. The medical community and international emergency support initiatives such as Doctors without Borders have medical data for trends and patterning of the spread of disease in these communities while the local communities are able to provide contextual and cultural information. Together, these data sources can be brought together to identify applicable methods used in the recent decades of managing the outbreak of diseases in this region of the globe.

Therefore, the African nations will need to design and tailor their response to the corona virus in such away that it addresses their specific needs based on their demographics and medical conditions of the people.

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About Claire Cosgrove

Dr Claire Cosgrove, Ph.D., is an independent Environmental Scientist and Educator. Looking to establish a consultancy company: “Cultural Awareness, Environmental Mindfulness”. Formerly a Professor of Environmental Sciences in the College of Engineering at AMA International University, Salmabad, Kingdom of Bahrain. Before moving to the Middle East in 2009, Dr Claire was a Research Scientist based in the USA at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and at Georgia Institiute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr Cosgrove has lived and worked in a number of countries such as South Africa, USA, New Zealand and the Middle East. Her research work has covered air pollution, weather modification /cloud seeding, rainfall modelling and simulation and flood forecasting, to name a few areas of interest.

3 Responses to Is Lockdown a Viable Option to Control the Coronavirus in Africa?

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